Challenge Papers

This series of short papers by Schumacher Institute staff, fellows and associates aims to challenge, provoke and stimulate discussion. Each paper raises a practical or theoretical challenge for the sustainability movement and presents the author’s personal take on the issue.

The Challenge Papers Series is an ongoing activity at the Institute, with new papers posted online as they are completed. Please contact  if you would like to submit one.

Making Aquaponics Accessible (Alice Marie Archer)

The need to rapidly intensify global food production, coupled with the declining availability and affordability of the fuels, fertilisers and other inputs on which our current agricultural systems depend, mean that we must now radically rethink the food system. If more food can be produced locally with fewer and more effectively used (and re-used) resources, it may be possible to improve urban food security and combat food poverty.

Responsibility to Future Generations (Barbara Adam)

As cultural and social beings we are inescapably future oriented. How we live and produce futures, however, is biographically, culturally and socially distinct. It changes historically, over our lifetime and with specific contexts. As knowledge practices, approaches to the future have consequences. Today the consequences of technological action in particular present us with a new context for accountability and responsibility. It is the challenge to moral conduct, presented by the contemporary context, I want to consider here.

Energy down the drain – Improving domestic shower efficiency (Daniel Hinchliffe)

Exploring improving sustainability and resilience through domestic energy efficiency measures. In particular, reducing the energy wasted in showering.

Radicalising Education for Sustainability (John Blewitt)

When capitalism faltered and real change seemed possible, institutionalised Education for Sustainability (EfS) failed to overcome its organizational constraints and internal limitations and seize the opportunity to offer radical alternatives.

Language, Images and Boundaries (Michael Clinton)

For our society to adopt truly sustainable lifestyles will require informed and effective decisions and actions by people across the whole social spectrum.

The Global Financial Crisis, Working People and Sustainable Development (Paliani Chinguwo and John Blewitt)

Although they had nothing to do with the actual causes of the 2008 Global Financial crisis, it is ordinary workers and their families who have arguably suffered the most from its effects. While governments and international agencies seem most concerned to protect the returns to Capital in the name of financial austerity and economic good sense, little has been done to protect the well-being of working people or the global environment.

Nuclear Energy – One strand of hope for social and environmental justice on a crowded planet (Steven Harris)

On an increasingly crowded and polluted planet, dealing with the multiple impacts of global warming and continuing to work to improve global equity requires sufficient baseline energy supply to enable further advances in education, healthcare and human rights around the world while rapidly achieving large reductions in fossil-fuel combustion.

The role of work in a world where people and planet matter (Nicola Jones)

‘What needs to be done so that work is meaningful?’ For Schumacher, meaningful work is that which respects the dignity of human beings, contributes to our society, gives us purpose and challenges us to develop or grow. Schumacher’s concept of growth was far removed from the unrealistic pursuit of limitless economic growth; rather, it focused instead on improving the overall quality of life. Such a focus requires that we have a better understanding of our relationship with ourselves and with others and with our relationship to the issues of responsibility and sustainability.

Appropriate Nano-Innovation (Donnie Maclurcan)

If nanotechnology is to play an appropriate role in addressing the health-related challenges faced the world’s poorest people in the 21st Century, there will need to be a much greater focus on some of the more equitable ways in which it can be developed.

Our children’s children’s children’s children (Zoe Young)

Religion is what keeps the poor man from murdering the rich

– Napoleon Bonaparte

The Challenge: So, a challenge: what other way to organize our spiritual needs and answer life’s
big questions would keep the rich man from murdering the poor – and women, children, future
generations, animals, trees, rivers etc?